Apistogramma Cockatoo – a Bright Tuft

Some aquarium fish vaguely resemble land animals in their body shape, color, or other characteristics. For this reason, various household names often “stick” to them, and we get parrotfish, butterflies, elephants, etc. In our article, we will tell you about the wonderful dwarf cichlid, which was also named for its resemblance to the famous bird. Meet the cockatoo Apistogramma.

General information

Apistogramma cockatoo (Apistogramma cacatuoides) is a freshwater ray-finned fish from the Tsichlov family. This dwarf cichlid will become a real decoration of the aquarium because it is one of the brightest ornamental fish of the South American continent. And the content of her will not cause much trouble. The Apistogramma cockatoo is a peaceful fish, an excellent choice for general aquariums.

The dorsal fin of this cichlid strongly resembles the crest of a cockatoo parrot, for which, in fact, the fish got its name. Unfortunately, the juvenile cockatoo Apistogramma is colored rather modestly, so many sometimes do not notice it among the more brightly colored neighbors. But if you put the fish in comfortable conditions and wait for its maturity, then an unusually beautiful fish will appear before you, from which it will be difficult to take your eyes off.


It is almost impossible to confuse the cockatoo Apistogramma with other dwarf cichlids. The fish has an elongated body up to 6-8 cm long. Males are larger than females, are brighter in color, and have a characteristic crest of the dorsal fin. All fins, except the pectorals, are large and pointed. Ahead with large eyes and a small mouth with fleshy lips.

The cockatoo Apistogramma is characterized by an unusually variegated color. The main body color is gray or greenish; a dark stripe stretches from the eyes to the tail, which can be solid or discrete. The belly of the fish is yellow-orange.

The anal and pelvic fins are blue-yellow, the caudal fins are covered with bright red or orange spots. The dorsal fin is greenish-orange, its first rays are dark, and there is a red edging on the edge.

It is worth noting that through the efforts of breeders, many color variations of the cockatoo Apistogramma were obtained.


The natural range of the cockatoo Apistogramma includes water bodies of Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia. Fish prefer places with a slow current, flooded areas of the jungle, tropical swamps. In these reservoirs, there is a large amount of falling decaying organic matter; due to the high content of tannins, the water in the natural habitats of apistograms is colored brown. It is also very soft and acidic.

Fish prefer shallow waters with a sandy bottom, in which they like to rummage, looking for food. Cockatoo apistograms hide from predators among thickets of living plants and snags.

Cichlids live in groups of a dominant male and several females.

Care and maintenance

As in nature, cockatoo Apistogramma is best kept in small harems of a male and several females. The recommended volume of the aquarium is 60 liters. It is best to lay sandy soil on the bottom.

Various stones, driftwood, grottos are used as decorations. Creating a large number of shelters is encouraged. Most of the time the fish spend near the bottom, they like to slightly dig it up.

It is useful to plant live plants in the aquarium while leaving the fish a place to swim. Anubias, Echinodorus, Cryptocorynes, Vallisneria, unpretentious mosses and ferns are well suited. It is recommended to make a little twilight with plants floating on the surface of the water: Riccia or Pistia.

Apistograms are sensitive to the content of nitrogenous compounds, so they can only be settled in aquariums with an established balance. It is important to provide quality filtration and aeration. It will not damage the thermostat to maintain a comfortable water temperature.

Apistograms cockatoo lovers of soft and acidic water. Once a week, it is necessary to replace 20% of water with fresh water in order to prevent an increase in the concentration of toxic metabolic products. Usually, water for changes is taken directly from the water supply system, and this can be dangerous for your pets, because such water may contain compounds of chlorine and heavy metals. Therefore, before adding fresh water to the aquarium, add Tetra AquaSafe conditioner to the bucket, which instantly makes the tap water suitable for fish life.

It is also useful to add conditioner with natural peat extract Tetra ToruMin to water. The humic substances in its composition will slightly tint the water brown and will have a beneficial effect on the health and well-being of the apistograms.


Due to its calm nature, the cockatoo Apistogramma gets along well with the vast majority of aquarium fish. True, you should not abuse kindness, although it is small, it is a cichlid, which means that fry of other fish or shrimp will become a tasty prey for this miniature predator.

It is best if the neighbors in the aquarium are similar in size. It is recommended to pay attention to tetras, minors, barbs, corridors, ancistrus, neons, rasbora, gourami, etc.

Aggressive fish, such as Malawian cichlids or astronomies, will consider the cockatoo Apistogramma only as live food, so cohabitation with them is completely excluded.

It is recommended to keep fish in harems from a male and several females. Two males can only be housed together if the tank is large.

It should be noted that during the spawning and caring period for caviar, apistograms become more aggressive. The male guards his sight of the aquarium and drives away any stranger who dares to violate the boundaries of the territory.

Feeding Apistogramma cockatoo

The miniature cockatoo Apistogramma is a real predator. The basis of its diet in nature is made up of benthic insects, their larvae, small crustaceans, and worms.

In an aquarium with feeding cichlids, everything is much easier, because the fish perfectly eat high-quality dry food. But it is better to refuse frozen and live food – they will not be able to provide the fish with nutrients in full, and in the worst case, they will become a source of infection.

The mouth of apistograms is small, so the food must be chosen proportionately. Flakes, chips, and granules work well. If you keep cichlids in a shared aquarium, make sure they get food. There have been cases when more active neighbors pushed phlegmatic apistograms away from the food.

The following foods are perfect for a cockatoo Apistogramma:

  1. TetraPRO Color Multi-Crisps or Tetra Rubin are feeding containing natural color enhancers. Feed your pets with this food for several weeks, and you will immediately notice that the red, orange, and yellow spots on the fish’s body have become even brighter;
  2. Tetra Cichlid Color Mini is a universal food for all types of dwarf cichlids. Contains selected proteins for good growth and development, as well as a complex of color enhancers;
  3. Natural delicacies in nourishing jelly – Tetra FreshDelica – will be a pleasant addition to the main diet. Tasty bloodworms or brine shrimp most of all resemble the natural food of cockatoo apistograms. At the same time, there is no need to worry about the safety of pets, the raw materials are thoroughly sterilized.

Apistograms are prone to overeating, so you need to feed them in small portions 2-3 times a day.

Reproduction and breeding

To breed cockatoo Apistogramma at home, there is no need to create extraordinary conditions. If the fish feel comfortable in the aquarium, then the appearance of offspring will not take long.

Puberty is the Apistogramma that occurs at the age of 8-10 months. By this time, sex differences begin to appear. Males are larger than females, their color is brighter, and the rays on the caudal and dorsal fins are more elongated and sharp. The closer to spawning, the more saturated the color becomes in males.

Since fish most often live in harems, one male is able to fertilize several females at once. It is very important in this case that each female has its own hiding place.

You can also breed apistograms in a separate spawning aquarium with a volume of 15 liters or more. A small layer of soil, several large-leaved plants, and a variety of shelters are laid in it. Spawning can be stimulated by raising the temperature and frequent small water changes. Spawning is preceded by mating games: the male bends his body in front of the female and shows himself in full “fighting” color.

In one of the shelters, the female lays eggs, their number can reach 80 pieces. Cockatoo apistograms have a well-developed parental instinct, and there is a separation of duties: the female looks after the eggs and the male protects the territory. Sometimes, however, he becomes overly aggressive and poses a threat to the offspring and the female. In such a situation, it is better to plant it.

On days 2-3 after fertilization, larvae appear, which after 4-5 days begin to feed on their own.

It was noted that at a water temperature of about 21 ° C, more females are born, and at higher rates (29 ° C), males.

An amazing fact, but if fry appeared in the aquarium at once in several females, then you can observe how the females steal the babies from each other.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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